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Free RideThe Internet has enabled creators—musicians, film producers, artists, journalists, authors, and others—to reach a wider audience than ever before. It has also made it harder than ever for them to be compensated for their work. In contrast, technology companies, which rely on the work of creators and the media business to thrive, have received the greatest financial benefit from their work. In Free Ride, Robert Levine takes an in-depth journey through the systemic struggle of media companies and artists who cannot collect enough of the revenue that their work is generating while those who distribute and aggregate their content, legally and illegally, are experiencing exponential growth.

According to Levine:

  • Music has become so easy to copy and distribute–legally or otherwise–that people forget how much effort is involved in making it. Digital music takes away the cost of making plastic discs and shipping them to stores, but otherwise has not made the cost of producing music any less expensive.
  • Journalism can no longer rely on advertising revenue to support as much of its business as it once did. Major news aggregation websites, like theHuffington Post, generate money with far lower reporting costs. This sets up a disincentive to create original stories and ultimately rewards behavior that hurts the industry as a whole.
  • Roughly 40 percent of the revenue cable companies receive is divided among channels as “carriage fees” that smaller channels rely on to produce high quality, scripted shows. As more people look to the Internet to fulfill their demand for television, legally or illegally, the cable model, and consequently television’s overall quality, is under threat.
  • Movie studios are not in the business of selling tickets to movies as much as they are in the business of selling various rights to show them later. Piracy undertaken via online locker services, or file-hosting services, presents the greatest threat to the industry.
  • Technology companies are primarily interested in cheap and accessible books as a means to another end. Consumers must remember that while the cost of distributing e-books is less, the task and high costs of writing, editing, publishing, and marketing have not changed.

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